×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Global Road Turns Rocky Despite Grand Plans and Pronouncements

Just six months ago, Global Road Entertainment executives boasted at the Berlin Film Festival that they planned to pour $1 billion into production budgets over the coming three years.

But that ambitious claim appeared to come almost literally to naught this week with news that parts of Global Road’s U.S. operations had been taken over by the company’s financial backers. Staff members were told at an all-hands meeting Tuesday that their U.S. domestic production and distribution operations were flirting with bankruptcy. (The U.S. television and film sales divisions were not immediately affected.)

The crash is a major blow to high-flying executive Donald Tang, whose privately held company, Tang Media Partners, owns Global Road. Now, some are asking how much capital TMP ever had in the first place, despite its ambitious announcements and acquisitions, and who the backers are who have asserted control over Global Road operations in the U.S.

Some of that puzzlement extends to his own employees, at least those based in China, TMP’s other main center of operations. Although Tang has always insisted that his TMP is a U.S.-based enterprise, in recent months he has elaborated a so-called “dual core” strategy embracing both Hollywood and China – a strategy that has not been a success for companies such as Dalian Wanda, Relativity Media, Dreamworks and CMC.

Popular on Variety

The financial woes hitting Global Road in the U.S. have apparently not been felt in the company’s operations in the Middle Kingdom – yet. Those operations include a small team handling film distribution and marketing. One of its few releases was the June outing of hit Indian film “Toilet: A Love Story.” Another team handles film and TV project development.

“We have not been told anything – only that it is business as usual,” said one TMP executive in China, speaking on condition of anonymity. But a former China-based staffer said that concern over the group’s overall finances motivated his decision to quit earlier this year.

Neither Tang nor TMP’s COO, Kevin Kang, who has offices in L.A. and Shanghai, responded to a request for comment.

Notably, the identities of the financiers – the lenders and equity investors – involved in the management takeover of Global Road in the U.S. were not disclosed. Tang has not publicly named all of TMP’s backers or their ownership positions.

But among those reported as having a stake are Chinese film studio Huayi Brothers, venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, and entertainment industry investor China Media Capital.

Tang has often named Chinese social media and games giant Tencent as one of his core backers – Tencent also hatched a TV production deal with IM Global, which was folded into Global Road – but many in the Chinese industry have suggested that Tencent’s investment in TMP is small, even tokenistic, and that the company did Tang a favor by lending its name and credibility.

In recent months, Tang has also named Chinese finance firm Everbright as an investor. Everbright did not respond to e-mails from Variety. Another possible investor is Reliance Entertainment, the Indian firm that sold TMP its controlling stake in IM Global in 2016.

The purchase of IM Global is believed to have cost about $200 million. AMC reported that its sale of 50% of Open Road netted it $28.8 million, pointing to a purchase price north of $50 million.

After Global Road told film executives in Berlin in February of its plan to put $1 billion into production, it became clear that the company did not have that kind of money available when it appointed boutique finance house Moelis & Co. and Wall Street heavyweight Morgan Stanley to help raise $200 million of equity capital.

At an investor presentation by TMP in Hong Kong in late April, Global Road chairman and CEO Rob Friedman told Variety that the bankers were still working on the equity issue, and that Global Road’s planned production slate would separately be funded with debt.

More Film

  • Over the Sea

    Macao Film Review: 'Over the Sea'

    The beginning is a fairy tale, or a nursery rhyme. A woman nurses her squalling baby in a house by an orchard near the sea. Sunlight slants in through the open windows, the mother hums a lullaby, and then brings her son outside and places him in a cot suspended from the apple-laden branches of [...]

  • CCA Film Nominations

    Critics' Choice: 'The Irishman,' 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Lead Movie Nominations

    “The Irishman” has picked up the most film nominations for the 35th annual Critics’ Choice Awards. The Martin Scorsese gangster drama goes into the awards show with 14 noms, including best picture, director, acting ensemble as well as best actor (Robert De Niro) and supporting actor (Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), the Critics’ Choice Association [...]

  • Parasite

    LA Film Critics Announce 2019 Winners

    Members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. met today to vote on the year’s best cinema accomplishments. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include “Roma,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “Boyhood,” “Her”/”Gravity” and “Amour.” List of winners below. Best Editing: Todd Douglas Miller, “Apollo 11” (Runner-up: Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie, [...]

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    Box Office: 'Jumanji 2' Kicks Off Overseas With $52 Million as 'Frozen 2' Powers Toward $1 Billion

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” skated past international box office competition again as the animated sequel propels toward the billion-dollar mark globally. “Frozen 2” generated another $90 million from 48 foreign territories, boosting its worldwide weekend haul to $124.9 million. After three weekends in theaters, Disney’s musical follow-up has made $919.7 million and should cross $1 billion [...]

  • Lily James

    Lily James Delivers Masterclass in Charm in Macao

    British actor, Lily James delivered a masterclass in charm and good humor at a seminar on Sunday at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. Questioned on stage by one of the festival’s senior programmers, James brightly chatted her way through eight years of a screen career that has taken her from “Downton Abbey” to [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Lion King Frozen 2

    Disney Crushes Own Global Box Office Record With Historic $10 Billion

    Thanks to a record number of billion-dollar blockbusters, Disney has become the first studio in history to surpass $10 billion at the worldwide box office. Through Sunday, the studio has generated $3.28 billion in North America and $6.7 billion overseas for a global haul of $9.997 billion and is expected to officially cross the benchmark [...]

  • Takashi Miike

    Miike Takashi's Unusual Takes on Feminism and China

    Takashi Miike chuckles when you ask him if he’d called himself a feminist. “Maybe I’m not exactly, because when I use the word as a man, it feels like it might be condescending, or anti-woman,” he told Variety on the sidelines of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao, where his latest feature, the high-octane [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content